Thursday, July 17, 2008

I call on America to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production by July 17, 2018

OK? Are you clear on that now? Incidentally, Al Gore has set the same goal. If you're keeping track at home, that's two of us. I know that it'll be hard to know which of us to credit when it happens, but let's leave that to historians to unwind.

Maybe he's a little more influential.
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he supported Gore's challenge, and said he would fast-track investments in renewable energy like solar, wind and biofuels if elected. "It's a strategy that will create millions of new jobs that pay well and cannot be outsourced, and one that will leave our children a world that is cleaner and safer," he said.

Obama's rival in the November election, Republican candidate John McCain, also backed Gore's plan. "If the vice president says it's do-able, I believe it's do-able," he told reporters.
John McCain likes to talk about Iraq, and he sounds like a crazy son-of-a-bitch when he talks about Iraq (as opposed to most topics when he sounds like he's parroting wingnut ideology he doesn't buy), but he does identify climate change as an issue we need to address.

Of course, so did candidate George Bush in September of 2000. He even had a plan to implement. Or, you know, a principle. Looking that link up (which took forever -- I was shooting for speech text) I got to read things like "the idea the global ice caps may melt." Now, we just talk about the disappearance of Arctic Sea Ice and the instability of Greenland's ice sheet, and I still meet people who don't believe in anthropogenic global climate change. What was crazy alarmist liberal science fiction 8 years ago is now just another thing that happens in God's creation.

The speech text I linked to is from the New York Times' "dot Earth" blog, and the blogger tries to annotate Gore's speech. However, he gets undeservedly snarky here and there.
Mr. Gore appears to have shifted from his original stance that climate change alone was the “planetary emergency” of our time to the multi-pronged view that including it in a basket of reasons to undertake a nonpolluting “energy quest” makes more sense.
I don't see a shift. I hear him saying, "We have to change our energy production to save civilization, and here are some other nice benefits."

But, the main point is, we need to hear this from someone in power. I'm happy the Democrat and Republican candidates have signed on, but they seem to have largely separated their Senatorial work from their campaigning. If they're both so on board with this, can they go back to their body and get a non-binding bipartisan resolution through the senate?


nephos said...

Gore is crazy. He might as well ask for global planetary starvation, as that is what will entail if we either shut down all fossil-based power production, or spend all our resources on replacing it.

Of course we also face global planetary starvation from climate change. I guess I'd just find it way more refreshing if Gore acknowledged that we've gotten ourselves into an impossible situation.

Rionn Fears Malechem said...

...which the administration of which he was Vice President contributed to.

Remember after the Supreme Court turned the nation over to our malefactors, Al Gore disappeared and grew a beard. Those were probably his 'impossible situation' days. After all, if we are in an impossible situation, what would the point of making public pronouncements about it be? Ah... I mean for Al Gore.

"Global Planetary Starvation," or GPS, in the first case wouldn't affect everyone -- it would in the second. And, what if we just spend 60 % of our resources replacing fossil-based power production? What does the starvation balance look like then?

nephos said...

So that actually turns out to be fairly easy to estimate - uh, I think.

Okay here's the basis. The size of civilization goes as energy consumption. Say a 60% reduction, then a 60% reduction in civilization. Assume then that the size as civilization roughly scales as population, then you get a 60% reduction in population.

So this is where I like phrases like "0th order estimate", but I think the point that it a "-1th order estimate" of it being an awfully big number is likely highly accurate.

But I'm not sure I understand your point about there being a distinction between self-imposed and externally imposed starvation. To me, it seems that either way, inflation sky-rockets, and that just sounds globally bad.

Rionn Fears Malechem said...

A friend writes...
[I]n his 1970 Nobel prize lecture, [Paul] Samuelson said:
There really is nothing more pathetic than to have an economist or a retired engineer try to force analogies between the concepts of physics and the concepts of economics"

I don't believe that the size of civilization goes as energy consumption. According to Wikipedia, in 1804 we had 1 billion people, and have septupled since then. By the beginning of the 19th Century, the overwhelming majority of people were "civilized," as we have been for the past 10,000 years, but we were using less than a seventh as much energy. Cardiff was still a small town then! Brazil uses about a sixth as much energy per capita as the US, and is still civilized.

Rionn Fears Malechem said...

Wait, even better. The US used about a quadrillion BTUs/year in 1840, and had about 17 million people. Now, it's using about 100 times as much energy with 18 times as many people. So, not linear at all, really.

If we used as much energy per capita as Brazilians, we could get by with the amount of nuclear, hydroelectric and wood (which doesn't seem to have changed much, actually) we use today.